Demmer’s Dispatch: May 13, 2019

House Republicans Renew Call for Bipartisan Negotiations for Balanced FY20 Budget

Last week lawmakers learned that April revenues were up by $1.5 billion and that Fiscal Year 2020 estimated revenues were revised upwards by $800 million. On Wednesday, I joined House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Deputy Leader Dan Brady for a press conference in Springfield to reiterate the need for bipartisan negotiations to pass a balanced FY20 budget. House Republicans believe next year’s budget can be balanced without new taxes.

Projections are showing that this year’s tax receipts will be the highest they have ever been in our state’s history. We must acknowledge these new numbers and refocus our budget discussions on the fact that we do not need to raise taxes or fees.We are in a position to ensure the FY20 budget is reasonable and sustainable while addressing key priorities, and we’re in a position to do it without tax and fee hikes.

When we work together in good faith we can reach consensus on good legislation, including budgets, that moves our state forward. We did this last year for the FY19 budget and the result was a balanced budget with a projected surplus.

Rep. Tom Demmer Named “Champion of Innovation”

Last week I was proud to receive the TechNet Champion of Innovation award. TechNet is a national bipartisan network of technology CEOs and senior executives who promote the growth of the innovation economy. TechNet represents some of the most innovative companies in the United States, and it was an honor to be recognized for the work I do in Springfield on policies that drive new investments and new economic opportunities in Illinois.

I’m shown in this photo with (L-R): David London, Vice President of State Policy & Politics for TechNet, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Jane McEnaney, Executive Director of Illinois and the Midwest for TechNet, Anya Malkov from Amazon and Brian Gray from AT&T.

Demmer Visits With Local School Group at Capitol
On Tuesday morning I had an opportunity to visit with 4th grade students from Lincoln School in Rochelle. The group was spending the day in Springfield and I was happy to spend some time with them during their tour of the Capitol. They had some great questions and enjoyed their day.

Demmer, Hammond Decry Pritzker’s Board Appointment Tactics

At a Thursday morning press conference at the Capitol, State Representative Norine Hammond and I called attention to the heavy-handed tactics Governor Pritzker has used to handle dissent from pending board appointees. Together, we spoke out against the public actions taken against board members who act against his wishes.

Governor Pritzker withdrew the nominations of two members to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board after they voted against delaying the closure of Westlake Hospital. The board vote was unanimous, but because the two appointments were not yet confirmed, Governor Pritzker was able to take retributive action. Pritzker also recently removed two members from the Teacher’s Retirement System Board. Both members had raised opposition to the Governor’s controversial decision to shortchange the pension systems.

The Governor’s decision to rescind the appointments of qualified candidates can only be seen as an act of political retribution. While the Governor is able to make appointments as he sees fit, they are not meant to be rubber stamps for his political agenda. Pending nominees should be qualified individuals who can make decisions independent of fear of their nomination status.

With just over two weeks left in the spring legislative session, there are over 150 appointments still pending. Many of these will likely not be dealt with before the end of session, leaving these tenuously appointed members on uncertain ground. Click here to watch the press conference.

Local Realtors Visit Capitol for Lobby Day

The Capitol hallways were bustling last week with groups lobbying in favor of issues that are important to them. I had a wonderful visit recently from local realtors who were in Springfield for the Illinois Realtors’ Association Lobby Day. There were hundreds of realtors at the Capitol, and I enjoyed talking with local folks about the important work they do in the residential and commercial areas of real estate

Deaths of Children Spur Calls for Major Reform
Illinois children at risk are supposed to be looked after by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). When these children are injured or killed, many Illinoisans are both stricken with sadness and increasingly determined to overturn the system that failed these at-risk youths. In recent weeks, many Illinoisans are thinking and talking about the life and death of A.J. Freund of Crystal Lake in nearby McHenry County.

Many facts about the death of 5-year-old Freund are still not known, and further investigations are taking place. The almost unimaginable fact that the young boy was beaten to death has sent shock waves through the entire state. The inability of the youngster to get lifesaving help from DCFS has raised very serious questions about the Department and its personnel. Now, the words of a 2018 letter from the McHenry County State’s Attorney have come to light. In this letter, the prosecutor describes three separate previous cases in which the agency’s local caseworkers allegedly failed to act to protect children and cooperate with prosecutors who were trying to carry out legal interventions.  

In the case of young A.J. Freund, the youth’s parents had been “under investigation” by DCFS, and his case had been “open” until it was closed by the discovery of his body. House Republicans are determined to take action and look seriously and deeply at DCFS, and at the bureaucratic culture of the Department.

Auditor General Issues Scathing Report on Audit of DCFS
Illinois’ Auditor General issued a scathing report last week that outlined how DCFS consistently failed to follow its own policies for investigating cases of abuse and neglect from 2015-2017. During the audit period, which included 221,341 investigations involving 358,545 children, 102 children with prior DCFS contact ended up dead. In addition to the startling numbers throughout the report, the audit showed that investigators in many cases were slow to make initial contact with possible victims and abusers. The audit also pointed to a failing hotline system where a majority of those leaving a message on the hotline might not have received a timely callback. Despite a federal consent decree that set maximum caseloads for DCFS workers, the auditor found that close to 80% of the investigators had caseloads that exceeded maximum levels.

The audit report is a timely document that will help us with our own deeper investigation into what happened, why it happened, and how we can prevent future deaths. Click here to access the audit report summary, and click here to access the full report.